DA: Bail reform intent noble, unworkable

Dan Levy
Created: October 04, 2019 11:38 PM

TROY - Skyler Crouse was in handcuffs last week immediately after a police chase and a crash that killed an innocent motorist. He remains in custody tonight. if the same incident were to play out after January 1, 2020, Crouse might be back out on the street the same night.

"Keeping people out of jail is ideally what we're looking for," says Mary Pat Donnelly, the Rensselaer County District Attorney.


Donnelly, who was sworn in to her first term this past January, says removing judicial discretion and mandating the release of most defendants without allowing any consideration for flight risk or threat to public safety is a big mistake.

"The problem," she says, "is when we move up to some of those higher levels of offenses, they're not going to come back (to court) and you need to do something to entice them. We don't know that (for certain) and I'm just speaking based upon my experience."

Donnelly used to be a judge, just like Rich Giardino, who is now the Fulton County sheriff.

"Police chases show you that people don't care about following the law," Giardino opines, "If they're not going to stop for police officers, what makes you think they're going to come back to court?"

"Any prosecutor knows one of the biggest hurdles is the witness cooperation," Donnelly asserts.

Donnelly's number two concern is the list of new rules for discovery, which means all evidence, including grand jury witness information must be turned over to the defense as soon as possible.

"As we know," Donnelly begins, "it's very difficult here in the city of Troy to have cooperation from folks in the community to let you know what happened and for those people to now know they're not protected and I can't even represent to them what they are, I think we're going to see probably under reporting of crimes."

"It boggles the mind because a lot of the people who were protected before in the public, who help the police, are going to be in danger," Giardino theorizes.

Donnelly thinks she'd have to double the size of her staff just to keep up with the additional workload, something the county can't afford.

"The intent is noble," she states, "But it can not work as drafted."

The list of charges for which a defendant must be released from custody, without bail, after January 1, 2019 includes:

* Burglary second degree

* Burglary third degree

* Robbery second degree

* Robbery third degree

* Manslaughter second degree

* Criminally Negligent Homicide

* Aggravated Vehicular Homicide

* Assault third degree

* Aggravated Vehicular Assault

* Criminal Possession of a Weapon on School Grounds

* Criminal Possession of a Firearm

* Criminal Sale of a Firearm to a Minor

* Promoting an Obscene sexual Performance by a child

* Bribery first degree

* Coercion first degree

* Resisting Arrest

* Hindering Prosecution

* Tampering with a juror

* Money Laundering first degree

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